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Iraq on Edge

New Sunni Insurgency in Iraq

March 25th 2014

Revolutionary Guards

Largely ignored by the global media, Iraq today stands on the brink of a renewed Sunni insurgency.  The emergent insurgency in Iraq is following the same sectarian pattern as the civil war in Syria and the growing violence in Lebanon. It also involves many of the same local and regional players.

The rising violence in Iraq is not, however, simply the result of a spillover from the Syrian war. It derives also from internal Iraqi dynamics. But these are themselves in significant ways comparable to the Syrian and Lebanese situations.

Over 9,000 people were killed in fighting in Iraq in 2013.  This is not yet up to the levels of violence just prior to the surge, in the very worst days of the insurgency against U.S. forces and the sectarian bloodletting that accompanied it.  But it’s the highest since 2007.  This year, more than 2000 people have already lost their lives as a result of political violence in Iraq. Read more ..

Ukraine on Edge

U.S. Strategy After Ukraine: From Estonia to Azerbaijan

March 25th 2014

Click to select Image

As I discussed last week, the fundamental problem that Ukraine poses for Russia, beyond a long-term geographical threat, is a crisis in internal legitimacy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent his time in power rebuilding the authority of the Russian state within Russia and the authority of Russia within the former Soviet Union. The events in Ukraine undermine the second strategy and potentially the first. If Putin cannot maintain at least Ukrainian neutrality, then the world's perception of him as a master strategist is shattered, and the legitimacy and authority he has built for the Russian state is, at best, shaken.

Whatever the origins of the events in Ukraine, the United States is now engaged in a confrontation with Russia. The Russians believe that the United States was the prime mover behind regime change in Ukraine. At the very least, the Russians intend to reverse events in Ukraine. At most, the Russians have reached the conclusion that the United States intends to undermine Russia's power. They will resist. The United States has the option of declining confrontation, engaging in meaningless sanctions against individuals and allowing events to take their course. Alternatively, the United States can choose to engage and confront the Russians. Read more ..

The Ukraine Crisis

Obama Gives Assurances that Europe and America are On the Same Page

March 24th 2014

President Barack Obamas said the United States and Europe are united in holding Russia to account for its actions in Crimea. "Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people," he told reporters after meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Amsterdam on March 24. "We are united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far."

Obama told the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant that his message to European leaders is that Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to "understand the economic and political consequences of his actions in Ukraine" but that "it's important that Ukraine have good relations with the United States, Russia, and Europe." Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syria Fighting Spills Into Northern Lebanon

March 20th 2014

Bomb Damage

Syrian warplanes bombed areas along Lebanon's northern border Thursday amid bitter fighting between rebels and government forces in a historic border town.  Scores of civilians and fighters were reported to be fleeing into Lebanon.

Ambulances ferried victims of the fighting to hospitals in northern Lebanon. Rebel fighters and civilians forded a border river to enter Lebanon after the regular crossing was closed.

Syrian state TV reported that government forces had captured the besieged old Crusader fortress town of Qala'at al-Hosn by mid-afternoon, but the report could not be confirmed. Syrian fighter jets reportedly strafed areas near the border, causing a number of casualties. A young man who lives on the Lebanese side complained that the Syrian conflict had spilled onto Lebanese soil. Read more ..

Internet Edge

Serious Global Approach Needed to Attack Data Thieves

March 19th 2014

Stopping massive data breaches like the one that hit Target will require a more sophisticated, collaborative approach by law enforcement agencies around the world, a Michigan State University cyber security expert argues.

In a new research report for the National Institute of Justice, Thomas Holt found many hackers and data thieves are operating in Russia or on websites where users communicate in Russian, making it easier to hide from U.S. and European authorities. All countries need to better work together to fight hacking and data theft campaigns, he said, and use undercover stings in which officers pose as administrators of the Internet forums where stolen data is advertised.

The Target breach, which comprised 40 million credit- and debit-card accounts during the 2013 holiday shopping season, may have originated in Russia, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. “This is a truly global problem, one that we cannot solve domestically and that has to involve multiple nations and rigorous investigation through various channels,” said Holt, associate professor of criminal justice. Holt authored the 155-page report with Olga Smirnova from Eastern Carolina University. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Shi'a Jihadis in Syria

March 19th 2014

Syrian Jihadis

The Arab Spring, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the war in Syria have contributed to the rapid escalation in the number of Sunni and Shia jihadists. Their threat expands far beyond the Arab countries to the rest of the world.

During the Soviet-Afghan war, (1979-1989) jihadi operations were concentrated in Afghanistan.  In his book "Taliban," Ahmed Rashid estimated that 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Muslim countries in the Middle East, North and East Africa, Central Asia and the Far East fought for the Afghan Mujahideen.  Eventually, Rashid said, "more than 100,000 Muslim radicals were to have direct contact with Pakistan and Afghanistan and be influenced by the jihad." After the Soviets departed, tens upon tens of thousands of jihadis went home to spread violent Islamism. Afghanistan's role as cradle of jihadism continued through the period of U.S. and NATO involvement, to this day. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Acoustic Invisibility Cloak Tricks Sound Waves and Sonars

March 18th 2014

M1A1 Abrams main battle tank

Using clever design rules and crunching numbers through computational simulations, Researchers from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University (North Carolina), have managed to engineer a hollow structure that could cloak any object placed inside, from sound.

The cloak is made of sheets of plastic, designed into a structure with precisely repeating perforation patterns and specifically engineered to process sound waves as they pass by, so as to interact with them in a way that conceals both the cloak and what’s inside.

“To give the illusion that it isn’t there, the cloak must alter the waves’ trajectory to match what they would look like if they had not come across it”, explains professor Steven Cummer, leader of the project at Duke University. The cloak effectively works from all directions, it takes the sound wave "processes it mechanically" and restores it in its original wave front as if no obstacle had been encountered by the sound wave. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Not Quiet on the Northern Front

March 17th 2014

Golan Heights

The disintegration of the Syrian state into warring enclaves is bringing with  it new challenges and threats for Israel. Alarm bells have now been sounded on  Israel’’ shared northern border with Syria.

“For the moment, they [Jihadis] are not fighting us, but we know their  ideology. . . . It could be that, in the coming months, we could find ourselves  dragged into confrontation with them,” said a top-level Israel Defense Forces  officer.

In addition to the Jihadi threat, the Iran-sponsored terrorist entity  Hezbollah remains Israel’s most potent security threat in the north. Just last  month, Israel reportedly struck a Syrian weapons convoy on its way to  Hezbollah. Evidence is now beginning to emerge of the methods the Jewish state is  adopting to meet this new reality.

Since mid-2012, Syria has been effectively divided into three enclaves. The  first of these is the area controlled by the Bashar Assad regime, supported by  Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. The second is an area under the rule of a confusing  mass of rebel forces, mainly consisting of Sunni Islamist militias. The third,  in the far north-east, is an area controlled by Syria’s Kurds. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Security Plans Under Review With No BSA

March 16th 2014


U.S. and NATO military commanders in Afghanistan are reportedly developing plans to deploy a NATO military force in Afghanistan this year designed to assume a training mission in 2015, but small and nimble enough to be withdrawn if the Afghan government does not sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that lays out conditions for NATO’s continued security presence in the country.

President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the BSA even though it has popular support and was approved by a traditional grand council or Loya Jirga.  The U.S. has warned if the BSA is not signed it will proceed with the so-called “Zero Option” and pull all U.S. forces from the country by the end of the year.

Karzai has said he objects to BSA provisions that allow night raids by NATO forces and also any U.S. initiatives to negotiate with the Taliban.  He has also said his successor should sign the agreement because it will be up to him to deal with the consequences.

U.S. officials say they do not expect the BSA to be signed until after presidential elections in April, but President Obama recently warned Karzai in a phone call the longer the wait the less effective a BSA will be.  “We will leave open the possibility of concluding a BSA with Afghanistan later this year. However, the longer we go without a BSA, the more challenging it will be to plan and execute any U.S mission,” Obama said in his phone call with Karzai, adding that “Furthermore, the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition.” Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

Nigeria’s Boko Haram 'Increasingly Monstrous'

March 15th 2014

Boko Haram

The U.N. says nearly 500,000 people in northern Nigeria have fled their homes in fear of what it calls an “increasingly monstrous” insurgency that threatens food security in many parts of the country.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who visited Nigeria this week,  warned that what was formerly an internal conflict has become a regional crisis. The insurgency in northeastern Nigeria has “spilled across borders” into neighboring West African countries along with nearly 60,000 refugees, Pillay said.
“With thousands of refugees fleeing from Nigeria, and arms and fighters reportedly flowing across international borders in the other direction, this terrible conflict is no longer solely an internal matter," she said.

Pillay urged Nigeria to broaden its counter-terrorism strategy and work more closely with neighbors and the international community to stop the Islamist militant group known as Boko Haram. Inside Nigeria, she adds, farmers have abandoned their fields as they flee the insurgents, threatening food security in many areas. Read more ..

Isreal on Edge

Netanyahu Excoriates Seized Weapons

March 14th 2014


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the media in front of a stockpile of seized weapons in Eilat on Monday. Israeli intelligence had been tracking the weapons which were flown from Damascus to Tehran and then put on a Panamanian flagged ship. The arsenal was ultimately captured last week by the Israeli Navy in the Red Sea near Port Sudan and taken to Israel for further examination. The shipment contained 40 M-302 missiles as well as 400,000 rifle shells and 180 mortar rounds.

Israel believes the weapons were bound for Gaza via smuggling tunnels in Egypt. Islamic Jihad a terrorist group with stronger ties to Iran, and not Hamas, was the most likely intended recipient. However, smuggling the missiles over land has become somewhat more difficult since the Egyptian security crackdown in the Sinai region. For this reason, some analysts speculate the shipment was not actually going to Gaza, but would stay with terrorists in the Sinai. No matter where the shipment was meant to go, M-302 missiles have a range of roughly 100 miles and would have inflicted major damage over wide swaths of civilian territory, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa - or Cairo - if successfully launched. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Taliban Splinter Groups Add To Election Fears In Afghanistan

March 13th 2014

Taliban soldiers

The deadly reemergence of a little-known militant group in Afghanistan has prompted fears that rogue insurgents could be an added source for concern ahead of a crucial presidential election.

The Feday-e Mahaz, or "Suicide Brigade," announced its return by claiming responsibility for killing Swedish-British journalist Nils Horner in Kabul on March 11. In a brazen attack that has sent shockwaves through the international community in Kabul, Horner was gunned down in broad daylight in the Afghan capital's heavily fortified diplomatic district.

Feday-e Mahaz said in a statement posted on March 12 on its website that it targeted Horner because the Taliban splinter group believed he was a spy for Britain's MI-6 spy agency, and not a journalist. The mainstream Taliban, meanwhile, denied any involvement in the killing as well as any affiliation with Feday-e Mahaz. Afghan officials consider the crime unsolved and are hunting for two suspects as part of their investigation. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

The Cyberspies Who Don't Love Us

March 12th 2014

hacker keyboard

President Obama’s recent defense strategy and budget proposal have made clear that five years of defense cuts are reducing the American military’s capacity to protect our many interests around the world. With still more than a half-decade of sequestration left to go, Pentagon leaders are bracing for a challenging future as outlined in stark terms by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently.

Unfortunately, smaller budgets are not the only tests the Pentagon must deal with as it attempts to recruit, train and equip the force of today and tomorrow. Increasingly, the military is confronting a variety of cyber- and espionage-related threats that could undermine, and in some cases already is damaging, the safety of American forces and the effectiveness of contingency plans. Read more ..

Air Travel on Edge

Malaysia Plane Disappearance Prompts Security Discussion

March 10th 2014

USAir ditch in Hudson

It is still unclear why a Malaysia passenger jet vanished on its way to China early Saturday from Kuala Lumpur. But as authorities investigate apparent security lapses, analysts say they should be a catalyst for bolstering airline safety in the region. 

The little information that has emerged from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has frustrated increasingly desperate families and authorities who are still searching for the plane.

In Malaysia Monday, transport minister Hishammuddin Bin Tun Hussein urged people to refrain from repeating rumors until authorities are able to verify what happened.

"I would like to plea, make a plea, especially to the media and the public at large, not to spread and disseminate unverified and false news for two reasons, One because it affects our exercise of search and rescue because unverified news or false news will distract us from work at hand," said Hussein. "And secondly to be fair to the families who are hoping against hope." Read more ..

The Battle for the Ukraine

Jones Urges Obama to Avoid Military Escalation

March 9th 2014

F15 in Afghanistan

Gen. James Jones, President Obama’s former national security adviser, on Sunday urged his one-time boss to avoid a tit-for-tat escalation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Crimean Peninsula.

Jones warned the situation could spiral out of control and lead to a military confrontation.
“I think we don’t want to knee-jerk and overreact,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“A lot of the things that we’re talking about in terms of some of the tit-for-tat gestures that only tend to exacerbate the situation,” he said.

Jones said the administration should focus more on economic steps than military exercises, an option endorsed earlier on the program by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

“This is a strategic question I think that has long-term strategic consequences,” he said. “And it’s more about economies and about the future of the region than it is about troop displacements right now.” Read more ..

Groups on Edge

Armed Groups Target Students, Teachers

March 7th 2014

Student at Blackboard-Togo

A new report says attacking schools and universities has become a weapon of war. It says in the last five years hundreds of students and teachers have been killed and many more injured. The report – Education Under Attack – identifies 30 countries where “there was a pattern of deliberate attacks between 2009 and 2013.”

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack published the 250 page study. Diya Nijhowne, the group’s director, said, “Attacks on schools, teachers, students, professors, academics [are] much more widespread than previously documented. Schools are being burned, bombed, torched. Teachers are being extorted, abducted. Students are being recruited into armed forces in schools and universities in conflicts across the world.” But why attack schools? Read more ..

Defense on Edge

Defense Cuts Anger US Lawmakers

March 6th 2014

U.S. Naval Carrier

Plans to shrink the United States military to levels not seen since World War II are not sitting well with many U.S. lawmakers.  Some expressed their frustration and anger to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill. 

With U.S. troops in Afghanistan, waiting to come home, anger is boiling over in Washington over the Defense Department's proposed budget cuts. 

Pointing to events in the Middle East and Ukraine, lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee challenged Hagel.

"This budget lacks a realistic assessment of the increased risks," said Senator James Inhofe. "President Obama seems unwilling to accept that the tide of war is not receding." Fellow Republican Senator John McCain was equally blunt. "Your timing is exquisite. You're coming over here with a budget that we agree on, at least on the number, at a time when the world is probably more unsettled than it has been since the end of World War II," he said. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Israeli Navy Captures Iranian Boat Loaded With Syrian Missiles Destined for Gaza

March 5th 2014

Israeli Navy

Israeli Naval commandos on Wednesday intercepted an Iranian ship in the Red Sea weighed down with missiles that was en route to the Gaza Strip, the IDF said in a statement.

The boat, named KLOSC, was stopped by the elite naval commando unit Shayetet 13 as it was heading to Sudan, 1,500 miles from Israel.

Once on board the KLOSC Israeli soldiers found cement bags, behind which were hidden dozens of M-302 missiles which, the IDF said, were loaded onto the boat in Iran. Had the boat reached the Port of Sudan, its next stop would have been the Gaza Strip.

The M-302 missile is made in Syria and is based on Iranian technology, Israel’s Walla reported. M-302 missiles have a range of up to 200 kilometers and were used during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 to bomb several Israeli cities, including Haifa. Read more ..

China on Edge

Amid Regional Worries, China Plans 12 Percent Boost in Defense Spending

March 5th 2014


China plans to boost defense spending to $130 billion, a 12 percent increase. At the opening of the National People's Congress in Beijing Wednesday, a major political meeting, officials also said they expect the economy to continue to see stable growth of around 7.5 percent this year.

China's leaders say they faced tough challenges in 2013 including a slowing global economy, fluctuating exports, and natural disasters. Premier Li Keqiang says risks and hidden dangers remain for the world's second largest economy.

"There are still many problems people are unhappy with," Li said. "Serious and industrial accidents occur frequently. The social safety net needs strengthening and problems of corruption crop up time and time again." Li attributes some of the some problems to China's status as a developing country, but acknowledges the government could do a better job. Read more ..

El Salvador on Edge

MS-13's Secretly Backing Ruling Party in El Salvador

March 4th 2014

Guatemala narco gang bangers

The ultraviolent Mara Salvatrucha street gang, a.k .a. MS-13 — whose 10,000 members sow murder and mayhem in dozens of American cities — has been secretly backing El Salvador’s ruling party for several years, according to evidence that has emerged in recent weeks.

President Mauricio Funes has admitted to personally approving payoffs, prostitutes and other privileges for gang kingpins in exchange for their political support. If Funes’ FMLN party, which originated as a guerrilla movement in the 1980s, wins the March 9 presidential election, El Salvador may become a haven for gangs and narco-traffickers, with dire consequences for the United States.

MS-13’s violent thuggery plagues communities across America. For example, last September, 14 members of its Plainfield, NJ, branch were indicted for waging what US Attorney Paul Fishman called a “reign of terror,” including multiple murders and extortion. On Feb. 21, a 21-year-old convenience-store worker, herself a Salvadoran immigrant, was murdered in a Washington, DC, suburb by three presumed MS-13 gang members. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

A Chilly Washington D.C. Greets Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu

March 3rd 2014

Click to select Image

Despite the snowy chill hanging over Washington D.C., diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel are expected to be warmed by friction this week. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet on March 3 to discuss a variety of issues. In advance of their meeting, the two were blunt in their respective assessments for the prospect of peace in the Mideast.

Upon arrival in Washington, Netanyahu said that the ball is in the Palestinians’ court so as to make progress towards peace in the Mideast. Netanyahu said upon arrival in the United States "The tango in the Middle East needs at least three." Netanyahu added, "For years there have been two -- Israel and the US. Now it needs to be seen if the Palestinians are also present. In any case, in order for us to have an agreement, we must uphold our vital interests. I have proven that I do so, in the face of all pressures and all the turmoil, and I will continue to do so here as well." Read more ..

Ukraine on Edge

Chechnya Seeks to Bolster Russian Presence in Crimea

March 2nd 2014

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov

Never one to pass up an opportunity to comply demonstratively with orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov affirmed on February 28 his readiness to dispatch a consignment of humanitarian aid to Crimea. The cost of that relief will be borne by the Akhmat-haji Kadyrov charitable fund named for Kadyrov's late father.

Kadyrov had earlier condemned the revolution that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych as "a coup d'etat" and "a deliberate attempt to exert pressure on Russia through Ukraine." At the same time, Kadyrov placed the blame for the current situation on Yanukovych who, in Kadyrov's opinion, "failed to assume in time total responsibility for the fate of the people." Read more ..

The US and Afghanistan

US, Afghan Officials Debate Country's Future Security

March 1st 2014

Afghanistan Spec Forces

There is debate over the future of U.S. - Afghan relations after U.S. combat forces withdraw later this year. In particular, there is concern over whether Afghanistan will be able to maintain security and stability if the government decides against signing a security agreement that could allow a residual U.S. force to remain in the country. U.S. and Afghan officials discussed the issue at a forum co-sponsored by VOA.

After 12 years in Afghanistan, the U.S. combat mission is coming to an end this year. The U.S. has spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to help stabilize the country and protect civilians. There is uncertainty over whether U.S. troops will have a post-2014 role that would consist of continued training of Afghan forces and helping in sustaining counterterrorism operations. Read more ..

The Ukraine on Edge

In Crimea, A Simmering Cauldron

February 28th 2014

Protest in Ukraine

This week's standoff in Crimea was a long time coming. The emerging crisis pitting ethnic Russians seeking integration with Moscow and Crimean Tatars who wish to remain in Ukraine is emblematic of the smoldering tensions that have been a fact of daily life on the sunny Black Sea peninsula for the last quarter-century.

Because of the region's unique and tortured history, Crimean Tatars are afraid, says Igor Semivolos, director of the Center for Near East Studies in Kyiv. He says that the Tatars feel "threats from the Russian-speaking population, or more concretely, from groups of Cossacks and other formations that are now being created under the conditions of political hysteria that we see now in Crimea. And [Tatars] see a threat to themselves from these groups -- including a physical threat." Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Pakistan Denies Protecting Pro-Taliban Haqqani Network

February 27th 2014

Terrorist Bombing

Pakistan claims its “precision” air strikes against suspected militant bases in and around the volatile North Waziristan border region are “successfully” underway. It denies reports in the American media, however, that the country plans no action against the Haqqani network, a key ally of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which is entrenched in the tribal territory and known for staging attacks on Afghan and U.S. forces.

During the past week, Pakistani jets and helicopter gunships have repeatedly bombed hideouts of militants of the outlawed Terik-i-Taliban Pakistan, known as the TTP. The attacks focused on parts of tribal areas in the northwest, including the militant-dominated North Waziristan district. Security officials say the action killed more than 100 Islamist militants, some of them belonging to the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, and destroyed a number of their strongholds. Read more ..

The Ukraine on Edge

In The Shadow Of Lenin, Two Ukraines Face Off In Kharkiv

February 26th 2014

Ukraine protest

Wielding batons and riot shields, masked Euromaidan supporters have occupied the regional administration building in the eastern city of Kharkiv for several days. They vow to remain until "corrupt" officials resign.

Across the city's main square, a few hundred pro-Russia demonstrators shout insults like "scum" and deride them as "fascists." They have also set up an encampment under a towering statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, which they claim to be guarding against vandalism from Euromaidan supporters. Russian flags flutter in the wind as pop anthems from Vladimir Vysotsky and the Perestroika-era rock band Kino boom out of speakers. Read more ..

Defense on Edge

Pentagon Can Run, But It Can't Hide from Sequestration's Consequences

February 25th 2014

Chuck Hagel

President Obama’s forthcoming defense budget is the first to “fully reflect the transition DoD is making after 13 years of war.” The budget guidance seeks to further refine the President’s guidance from 2012 and focus on four key missions for the US military while acknowledging that US military dominance can “no longer be taken for granted.”

Not only is that true, American superiority is already at risk or waning across the services and domains. This is one of the primary reasons the Pentagon’s 2015 budget plan spanning five-years will present a variety of off-ramps for policymakers. Given slight breathing room under the Ryan-Murray budget agreement—which still locked in $45 billion in 2015 defense cuts compared to the President’s request—Pentagon leaders were able to postpone many of the biggest consequences considered in last year’s strategic review. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Israel's Navy – The Mediterranean's Life-Line

February 24th 2014


Israel's Navy is the IDF’s smallest branch and the least known.

Israel's navy actually predates the establishment of the State, existing as the Mossad LeAliya Bet, the Haganah's illegal immigration organization, running ships through the British blockade in an attempt to rescue Jews from Europe and smuggle them into the British Mandate in Palestine. Ironically, currently one of Israel’s Navy’s most important missions is blocking of smuggling into Israel.

Israel's Navy is tasked with blocking the smuggling of weapons that are shipped to Gaza or to the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Most of the Grad rockets fired in recent years at Israeli civilian targets from Gaza were smuggled by sea or by land through various ways. The prevention of the smuggling of these weapons is top priority. The new Egyptian Administration has recently taken real action against tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza, and as a result smuggling by sea may become a preferred route, and the Navy is constantly poised to contend with this threat. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Obama Putting Afghan Elections at Risk?

February 23rd 2014

Afgan Troops

The Obama administration is putting the success of Afghanistan’s presidential election at risk with its policy of not getting too involved, according to an outside group.

If the elections are not successful or are postponed for any reason, it could jeopardize whether a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. will be signed that would allow the U.S. to maintain troops and bases in the country, say members of the Coalition for Afghan Democracy.

The coalition consists of former U.S. and Afghan officials and experts who are working with groups on the ground in Afghanistan to ensure the elections run smoothly. It is a non-profit mostly funded by board member and Afghan-American entrepreneur Hamed Wardak.

U.S. officials say they’re hesitant to get too involved in the political process or to have a visual presence on the ground during campaigning, since they want Afghans to take the lead on the elections, which will be the first time Afghans are voting without an incumbent.

“The Afghans are in the lead. The 2009 elections had significant numbers of international observers, but this time, internationals will supplement an observation force composed almost entirely of Afghans,” said a State Department official on background. Officials say there will be about 12,200 Afghan observers, versus about 150 international observers. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Lawmakers to Grill Pentagon on Deadly Attack that Killed 30 Americans

February 22nd 2014

Seal Team 6

A congressional panel on Thursday will hold a hearing on a mysterious helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed members of the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6 unit.

Many questions about the Aug. 6, 2011 attack, which killed 30 Americans, will be asked during the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who heads the panel, told The Hill that the hearing is aimed at getting answers from the Pentagon and "honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice." The 30 Americans were killed three months after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by Team 6 forces. The timing has sparked speculation that the attack was payback for the bin Laden raid. Read more ..

Somalia on Edge

Somali President Unharmed in Palace Attack, Killing 17

February 21st 2014

Somali Militants2

Al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia launched a major attack Friday on the presidential palace in Mogadishu, killing at least 17, including a senior official.  But the country's president escaped unharmed.

Witnesses say the attackers stormed the gates of the presidential palace, known as Villa Somalia, around the time of Friday prayers and tried to force their way inside the compound.

Security officials say the assailants wore military uniforms to gain access.  The chief of staff to Somalia's prime minister was among those killed. The al-Shabab militant group has claimed responsibility.

United Nations envoy to Somalia, Nick Kay, speaking  from London, said he received a phone call from Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud shortly after the attack.

“The president told me of two vehicle bombs exploding outside the rear gate, one shortly after the other, and then armed attackers entering, trying to enter the Villa Somalia complex, possibly up to about 15 or so armed attackers.” Kay added that the president sounded "very calm and very composed." Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Pentagon to Share Electromagnetic Spectrum

February 20th 2014

The Pentagon

Pentagon officials are forging a long-term plan to secure military access to enough of the electromagnetic spectrum to accomplish its missions amid growing federal and commercial use.

“Department of Defense air, land, maritime, space and cyberspace operations are fundamentally and increasingly dependent on electromagnetic spectrum,” Teri Takai, the Pentagon’s chief information officer, said at a Pentagon briefing Thursday.

For example, when military pilots train within the U.S., they need a certain amount of electromagnetic spectrum, and if it is not available, training will have to be curtailed, Takai said.

“We are very heavily spectrum dependent in order to be able to do that training. If in fact we are in an environment where we have interference in the spectrum that we use, we either have to limit the amount of training or, in fact, we can have instances where we'll have interference during the time that that training's taking place,” she said. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Abduction Of Woman Puts Afghan Police In Spotlight

February 19th 2014

Afgan Police

For Afghan police, fending off the Taliban is only half the battle. The much-maligned local and national police forces are also fighting to win hearts and minds and to shed their reputations for thuggery.

That mission took yet another hit this week when a group of Afghan National Police (ANP) officers allegedly abducted a female nurse in Nuristan Province, a remote and volatile region along Afghanistan's northeastern border with Pakistan.

Ten ANP officers allegedly stormed a local health clinic in the province's Want district in the early hours of February 17 and whisked Zubaida (who goes by one name) away in front of her colleagues. Hours later, the nurse was rescued by a group of armed villagers and a second group of ANP officers following a brief shoot-out. Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Gaza Strip Welcomes New Al-Qaeda Terrorists: DAESH

February 18th 2014

It's official: Al-Qaeda has begun operating in the Gaza Strip.

A video posted on YouTube recently showed terrorists belonging to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known colloquially by its Arabic acronym, DAESH, announcing plans to wage jihad [holy war] against the "infidels, traitors and Crusaders."

This is the first time that a group linked to Al-Qaeda announces its presence in the Gaza Strip.

The announcement is seen as a challenge to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has been in control of the Gaza Strip since July 2007.

Palestinian Authority security officials in Ramallah expressed fear that the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group would try to establish terrorist cells also in the West Bank. Read more ..

Egypt on Edge

4 Killed in Blast on Egypt Tour Bus

February 16th 2014

Destroyed Bus

An explosion has hit a tourist bus at Egypt's Taba border crossing with Israel, killing at least three South Korean travelers and the Egyptian bus driver.  There has been no immediate claim of responsibility.  

The blast ripped through the bus, blowing out windows and part of the roof.  Initial reports indicate a bomb had been planted on or near the bus. South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda said all the details were not immediately clear.

He said the Korean tourists had traveled from the popular tourist site of St. Catherine's at the base of Mount Sinai. They were waiting to transfer at the Israeli border when the blast went off. Officials on both sides immediately closed the border crossing. Egyptian officials have condemned the attack. Read more ..

Financing the Flames

ECR Hearing Hears How Public Money Is Fanning Terror in Israel

February 15th 2014

Money Bands=Happiness

A hearing organised by ECR MEP Michal Kaminski today heard how a number of charitable organisations funded by public money are financing the flames that make peace in Israel more difficult. 

The event’s guest speaker was Edwin Black, the American syndicated columnist who specialises in human rights and the interplay between economics and politics in the Middle East.  Black presented his latest book on the subject, which shows how, instead of promoting peace and reconciliation between Arabs and Israelis, a variety of taxpayer-subsidized organizations have funded a culture where peace does not pay, but warfare and confrontation do.

Michal Kaminski said after the event: “This was a particularly interesting hearing. Edwin Black showed how the West is funding organisations whose activities are very different from those they state. Not a single penny, grosz or cent of our money should be handed over to any organisations that propogate terror or conflict in the Middle East, or threaten the security of Israel. Read more ..

The Cyber Threat

Cybersecurity: America’s Achilles’ Heel

February 14th 2014

Minneapolis skyline

The Cybersecurity Framework, which was announced on February 12, 2014, by President Obama, has very little new to offer to the private sector. It’s only a guide to how everyone should be conceptualizing and communicating about cybersecurity concerns.

The report comes a year after the president first announced his Executive Order on “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” in his 2013 State of the Union address.

This framework is said to increase the cooperation between the government and the private sector. However, it fails to take the overall responsibility for addressing the vulnerabilities of the U.S. national security and economy to cybercrime, cybermanipulation of markets, denials of service, and theft of intellectual property. Read more ..

The US and Afghanistan

Afghanistan Releases 'Dangerous' Detainees

February 13th 2014

Taliban soldiers

Afghanistan has released a group what U.S. forces have described as “dangerous” prisoners from a maximum security prison. That move is likely to further erode relations between the two countries.

U.S. forces describe the 65 detainees released from Bagram prison as “dangerous individuals” who have killed Afghan men, women and children, as well as coalition soldiers.

In a strongly worded statement, U.S. Forces - Afghanistan said both American and Afghan forces had risked their lives to ensure the safety of the Afghan people, and called upon the government to consider the potentially lethal effects of the releases. Speaking while on a visit to Turkey, Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended the move. He said the prisoners’ cases had been investigated and the decision made to free them.

“Afghanistan is a sovereign country. If the Afghan judicial authorities decide to release a prisoner it is of no concern to the U.S. and should be of no concern to the U.S.," said Karzai. "And I hope that the U.S. will stop harassing Afghanistan’s procedures and judicial authority and I hope that the United States will now begin to respect Afghan sovereignty.” Read more ..

Uganda on Edge

Uganda Police on ‘High Alert’ after Terror Threat Warning

February 12th 2014

US advisors with Ugandan officers and troops

Uganda police “swung into action” and have placed security officers on high alert after the US embassy in the country warned of a planned terrorist attack in the capital, Kampala, according to Judith Nabakooba, Uganda Police’s national spokesperson.

In a message released late Monday, the embassy said it has received information that “a group of attackers is possibly in place and ready to strike targets inside Kampala in February or March.” It said “There are indications that the Ugandan National Museum is one of the potential targets.” Nabakooba says the police are working with other security agencies as well as private security groups to thwart any possible terror attack.

“Our officers especially in the Kampala metropolitan area have strengthened their security and also their alertness in their respective areas of their operation,” said Nabakooba. “We have intensified our operations and our deployment in most of the key areas, especially where people normally gather. The police are now charged with a duty of patrolling around, but also doing routine checks in their respective areas.”                                                         Read more ..

The US and Iraq

US Will Step Up Training for Iraq Forces

February 11th 2014

Iraqi Forces

The United States is planning to step up training for Iraq forces as it battles a resurgent al Qaeda in the country, a U.S. official said Tuesday at a congressional hearing.

Ambassador Anne Patterson, assistant secretary of State for near eastern affairs, said that the U.S. has been a reliable partner with allies in the region, despite criticism that the U.S. has lost credibility in the region.

For example, in the face of a growing al Qaeda presence in the country, Patterson said the U.S. has provided Iraq with hellfire missiles, surveillance drones, and has recently approved the sale of attack helicopters.

“We have also tried to step up training. We’re planning to step up training. We have an enormous foreign military sales and foreign military financing program with Iraq,” Patterson said.

Although Patterson did not specify what kind of training it was, U.S. contractors have typically provided training for Iraqi forces as part of a foreign military sales program under the State Department. Read more ..

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